NEW YORK (PIX11) — The virus that causes polio has been detected in New York City wastewater, health officials said Friday, calling the discovery “alarming” and urging Big Apple residents to get vaccinated.
“For every one case of paralytic polio identified, hundreds more may be undetected,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett in a news release confirming the virus’ discovery in wastewater sampling in the five boroughs. “The detection of poliovirus in wastewater samples in New York City is alarming, but not surprising. Already, the State Health Department – working with local and federal partners – is responding urgently, continuing case investigation and aggressively assessing spread.”
Both Bassett and her counterpart at the city Department of Health, Dr. Ashwin Vasan, urged vaccination, especially for young New Yorkers.
“The risk to New Yorkers is real but the defense is so simple – get vaccinated against polio,” said Vasan. “Polio is entirely preventable and its reappearance should be a call to action for all of us.”
Friday’s troubling announcement follows the identification of a case of paralytic polio in Rockland County on July 21, as well as the detection of poliovirus in wastewater samples collected in Rockland and Orange counties.
Polio can cause permanent paralysis of the limbs and even death. Most people who contract the virus do not experience any symptoms, though some will experience flu-like symptoms including a sore throat, fever, tiredness, nausea, and stomach pain, according to health officials. One in 25 people infected with get viral meningitis and approximately one in 200 will become paralyzed, officials said. There is no cure for polio, but it can be prevented through safe and effective immunization.
Most adults do not need the polio vaccine because they were already immunized as children, and most kids are already protected as well because inoculation against the disease is recommended by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and required by the state Department of Health for school-aged children, according to Friday’s release.
However, officials noted that polio outbreaks are ongoing worldwide, and advised children and adults alike to be up-to-date on all routine vaccinations before traveling. That includes a one-time booster shot for adults who were immunized as children, if they’re planning on traveling to an area currently seeing an outbreak.
And for those in need of vaccines, options are available, according to health officials.
People without a healthcare provider can call 311 or 844-NYC-4NYC (844-692-4692) for help finding one, regardless of their immigration status, insurance coverage, or ability to pay, officials said.
Children ages 4 years and older can get low- or no-cost vaccines at the city DOH’s Fort Greene Health Center in Brooklyn. The center is located on the fifth floor of 295 Flatbush Ave. Extension, and is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
To make an appointment, you can visit nyc.gov and search for “immunization clinic.”